Google recently updated the ‘historical imagery’ layer after nearly six months of no updates. So, there is a lot of interesting new imagery to see. Last week we had a look at some US wildfires. Today, we are staying with the US and having a look at some more wildfires, some floods and a tornado.
Blue Cut Fire, Cajon Pass, California
The Blue Cut Fire destroyed 105 homes and 213 other structures in August, 2016.
Pilot Fire, California.
The Pilot Fire took place just a short distance to the east of the above Blue Cut Fire. We can see the extent of the burn in Google Earth and a number of houses that were saved by effective firefighting. See the KML file at the end of this post for the location in Google Earth.
There is now some DigitalGlobe imagery of Baton Rouge showing the flood in various stages:
A number of tornadoes struck Indiana in late August, 2016, including one that hit Kokomo, Indiana, destroying a Starbucks in the process. The satellite imagery is not very good quality, although we can see the location of the Starbucks that was destroyed. There is however Street View from before and after the event showing that the Starbucks no longer exists:
On May 1, 2016, a wildfire started near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. On May 3, According to Wikipedia, it swept through the community, destroying more than 2,900 homes and buildings and forcing the largest wildfire evacuation in Alberta’s history.
Google Earth does not yet have any imagery of the event, but various imagery providers have captured and shared imagery.
Planet Labs has captured imagery of the event. Read more about it on their blog. There are a number of ways to download the imagery. We chose to download the three zip files from this page totalling 4 Gb. Each zip file contains a number of tiles, which can be drag and dropped into Google Earth Pro with ease.
Planet Labs imagery showing Fort McMurray on May 6th, 2016.
For a low resolution version of the May 6th imagery from Planet Labs download this KML file (17 Mb).
Airbus Defence & Space
Airbus Defence & Space has an image in its gallery here, which it says was captured by the SPOT 6 or SPOT 7 satellite. You can download it from that page to put into a Google Earth overlay. However, it does not cover Fort McMurray itself and is about 20 km to the east.
Global News has this article which features more Airbus Defence & Space imagery, this time captured by the Pleiades satellites.
DigitalGlobe has captured some false colour imagery, which is featured, with before and after comparisons, in this article and on the DigitalGlobe blog
Blue: existing April imagery. Red: fresh April imagery.
To see the map of April imagery in Google Earth download this KML file.
We have only created a map for April imagery so far. It takes up to 24 hours to create a map for a given month, especially when there is a lot of imagery.
On December 20th, 2015, a landslide of construction waste occurred at Shenzhen, China. It toppled and buried a number of buildings, including some workers’ living quarters. The Google Earth image is from February 4th, 2015, so it doesn’t show the immediate aftermath of the disaster. However, we can get an idea of the scale of the disaster from the imagery. For ground level photos taken soon after the disaster see this article.
Landslide, Shenzhen, China. Slide the divider to compare before and after images.
On January 7th, 2016, a bush fire raged through the small town of Yarloop, Western Australia, destroying 121 homes and much of the town’s other infrastructure. There are now two images in Google Earth from after the fire, one from February and one from April.
Bushfire, Yarloop, Western Australia. Slide the divider to compare before and after images.
For much higher resolution before and after imagery not found in Google Earth see this website.
To see the above locations in Google Earth download this KML file.
Do let us know if you find any other interesting locations in the imagery.
In November last year there were a number of bush fires in South Australia. The imagery below shows the burn marks of one of those fires.
Drag the divider left and right to see the before and after images of a fire in South Australia.
December last year saw major floods in South America, including Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. One of the cities that were hit hard was Asunción, the capital of Paraguay. They had already experienced floods in July, 2015, which we have looked at before. Judging by the imagery available, the December flooding was worse.
Flooding in Asunción, Paraguay
Be sure to explore the imagery in Google Earth. By January 20th, 2016 the flood waters appeared to have subsided a little, but the area above was still flooded. There is a problem with the imagery for the area, with Google Earth sometimes switching to the January image as you zoom in, even if the time slider is set to a December date.
On November 5th, 2015, Bento Rodrigues, Brazil, was inundated in toxic sludge after a mine dam burst. We had a look at the imagery of the site in January. At the time we were able to follow the mud a little way downstream. More imagery further downstream has now been released, including some images of the mud entering the Atlantic Ocean.
To see the locations featured in this post in Google Earth download this KML file.
One of the sources of data used is NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) whose data can be obtained directly from NASA via this web page. NASA provides MODIS data for the whole globe. You can get fire data for a particular region of the earth, or download KMLs with data for the whole globe. Keep in mind that the the global ones are quite big and may cause performance issues in Google Earth.
The Californian government provides a website called CAL FIRE which includes a lot of information about fires, including this map of wild fires in California showing the actual extents of the fires. You can view it in Google Earth with this KML file.
As far as we can tell, the most recent imagery in Google Earth is from August 18th, so we cannot currently see the damage caused by the fires. However, it is possible to download Landsat imagery and view it in Google Earth and actually see some of the land affected by the recent fires. We previously experimented with getting Landsat data into Google Earth. The method we showed you required some rather large downloads. We have since found that if quality is not an issue then the easiest way to quickly check Landsat imagery is as follows:
Start with USGS Earth Explorer. Find the location you are interested in and mark it on the map.
On the datasets tab, select Landsat Archive->L8 OLI/TIRS
Click the ‘Results’ button.
Choose an image closest to the date you are interested in. Ignore any night time images (almost entirely black). In our case we found one covering part of California just north of San Francisco, captured on September 20th.
Click the icon next to the image labelled ‘download options’.
Download the file labelled “LandsatLook images with Geographic Reference”.
Unzip the downloaded files to a folder on your computer.
Find the file named with just the Landsat reference number and a .jpg extension. Drag it to Google Earth Pro.
Google Earth Pro automatically detects where to place it and creates an image overlay for you. However, it says that the image exceeds the maximum allowed size. You can choose to either crop the image, or scale it. In our case we chose to scale it.
This is what the result looks like in Google Earth:
To view it in Google Earth you can simply download this KML file.
Comparing this with the above mentioned CAL FIRE map, we find that the two large brown patches south-east of Clear Lake almost exactly match the outlines given for Valley Fire, Jerusalem Fire and Rocky Fire.
Getting the outlines to show on top of the image overlay required adjusting their altitude to 1000m above ground.
Fires detected by MODIS in the last 24 hours in central Africa. There are actually far more fires in Africa right now than in California. Hopefully they are less devastating.